Recently, a friend of mine announced a miracle. And it was, truly. I should have been overjoyed — she is a wife and mom who deserves to be with her loved ones. I should have been relieved — the loss of her would be absolutely tragic in every way. I should have been grateful — but I found myself feeling resentful. Why?
My gut reactions didn’t make sense because I value life. I value faith. I value support through hard things. I value her. I wanted to feel nothing but happiness and joy for this precious person. Because she DESERVES these things.
But I know that when my feelings and felt values don’t align, there’s a reason why.
After a lot of soul searching, I realized that it wasn’t because I was bitter, jealous and faithless (as many would be quick to assume).
Rather, I felt as I did because her miracle forced me to acknowledge that sometimes deserving people don’t get their miracles.
That sometimes I don’t get my miracles.
I remember the time I received a miracle. When we left the ER with a 50/50 chance of miscarrying our first pregnancy, I did the thing we people of faith do when faced with a circumstance outside our control: I called on a higher power. I circled Bible verses, then quoted them back to God as though He totally forgot His own words. I asked everyone else to pray. I promised to give God glory for his miracle. And then I chose faith.
And you know what? It worked. Or at least, it seemed to. God spared my baby, and we experienced the last nine years with her in our life.
So when a similar experience happened just three years later in our next pregnancy, I put “the equation” to work again. And this time, our baby died.
I didn’t understand. God was the same God. My faith was the same faith. The Bible was the same Bible. And this baby was absolutely just as deserving of a chance at life as our first daughter. So what happened?
God doesn’t operate by an equation. And neither does life.
And let’s be honest. That’s scary as hell.
One of our most primitive needs is for both safety and security. And we feel safe and secure when we know what to expect from our world.
Most of the time, we wander through life feeling protected by false algorithms about how life works. We won’t get hurt, we think, because of our faith. Or because of our age or kids’ ages. Or because God still had plans for us or our family. We’re safe because we live in a safer part of the world. Or because we’re just not the TYPE of people who have to deal with THIS KIND OF THING.
We cling to the belief that good things happen to good people and bad things to bad people. Or that karma will always play payback.
Our minds create boundaries that we think will keep us and our loved ones safe because we operate best in our world when we know our needs will be met, and our place is secure.
As a foster parent, I’m privy to seeing this desire to find one’s place play out in my home. A child comes into a perfect stranger’s home, and I watch as they push their behavior to the extremes to find the boundaries. What can I get away with here? they seem to be wondering.
They are searching for the boundaries because the boundaries make them feel safe. It’s only when they understand their limits can they actually feel secure, can they actually make some sense of their world.
But when we experience tragic loss, when we don’t get our miracle, these boundaries have been not only compromised . . . They’ve been obliterated.
We are tethered to a world that no longer makes sense. We are confined to an existence where we can’t explain why some live and some don’t. Why some walk away with near-misses, and others of us don’t have the chance to walk away at all.
So when we have that little tug at our heart that says, “but why did THEY get a miracle and we didn’t?” when we hear of someone else’s near miss, it’s not because we are bitter or angry, or because (God-forbid) we actually want harm to befall another person.
It is because we are faced with our very real vulnerability to the whims of this world.
And a world whose boundaries doesn’t make sense rightfully frightens us to our core.
So to my friend who received the best news she could have hoped for — please accept my regret that a heartfelt congratulation was not the very first emotion I felt (although it truly is the one I feel now).
Please accept my regret that the time I didn’t get my miracle has absolutely changed me forever.
Please accept my regret I will always struggle to feel safe and secure because nothing in this world will feel safe and secure again.